Sao Paulo Confessions

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Sao Paulo Confessions
(Six Degrees)

A curious, relentlessly sensual work celebrating the steamy atmosphere of the gigantic Brazilian city from which it takes its name, this album is also a swan song. Its creator, a Yugoslav native who spent more than 10 years in Sao Paulo, died of a heart attack prompted by a fire that erupted in his apartment and studio last November. Based on the complexity of this remarkable debut, Suba's death is a great loss.

Sparked by the rhythms of Brazilian street dance, Sao Paulo Confessions is so densely woven that it's difficult to tell where man ends and machine begins. Take "Antropofagos," an unusually hypnotic track equally heavy on "real" percussion and effect. Like several other tunes, this one -- which means "Cannibals" -- maximizes repetition, gaining power through accretion and nuance to prove that the more a sound is stressed, the more overtones it accumulates. By contrast, "Um Dia Commum (Em SP)" ("A Typical Day [in Sao Paulo]") blends chickenscratch guitar, muffled background vocals, and swoopy tape loops to evoke a street scene alternating the mundane and the dramatic. Who plays, what and what is "natural," and what is electronic, is never clear with Suba. While one can pick out elements of one or the other (the title track is sung by, presumably, Suba's main musical squeeze, Cibelle), the way Suba melds the electronic and the organic is so artful, it doesn't matter. This becomes particularly clear on the gorgeous, nervy "Abraço" ("Embrace"), an erotic tune melding Portuguese vocals, strings, tentacle guitar, and what can best be described as velvety baying hounds.

This music draws no conclusions; rather, it opens doors. A distant relative of electronica and ambient, it's definitively exotic and wondrously strange. A student of jazz and classical composition, Suba wrote music for theater, ballet, and film. He also wrote soundtracks for fashion shows and became a noted producer in Brazil, working with the likes of Hermeto Pascoal and percussionist Joao Parahyba. Omnivorous, infectious, and unique, Sao Paulo Confessions is ahead of its time. The way it incorporates electronic sounds into traditional Brazilian music makes one wish the Third World were closer. -- Wolff

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